I just checked to find that we have enjoyed 9 hours and 58 minutes of daylight today and darkness quietly descends behind me as I begin to compose this post a bit before 5 PM. Our days will continue to shorten, inexorably, until the winter solstice on December 21 at which time we will enjoy just 9 hours of daylight and, consequently, the longest night of the year. This is not the only sign that the descent into winter is upon us. Rather than launching and advancing in a high arc across the sky, the sun scuds or skims across the distant horizon much like a stone across water. The image below shows the last rays of illumination as they break upon the vestiges of fall foliage. Within minutes of capturing this shot the sun dropped below the near hilltop and the dark and cold spread rapidly … at just 3:50 PM. Silence too seemed to descend from where at had roosted … and the valley slept.